For Your Consideration…Chris Benoit Should Not Be Moved To RAW

Welcome back to “For Your Consideration ”, I’m still Andy Wheeler and let’s get down to business.

First, let me say thank you to all the people who took time to give me feedback on my first column (special thanks to Patrick for being the first e-mail). Without trying to sound like some homeless guy on a street corner, I will say that hearing readers’ responses to the column makes this a very rewarding process, so if you have an opinion on today’s topic, please feel free to share it and next week I’ll post the best concurring or dissenting opinion.

Also, Eric Szulczewski (a writer I hold in high esteem), in addition to addressing my column, mentioned something that I didn’t even notice, and that was the fact that I used nicknames for some of the wrestlers. I assure you that it was not my intention to break one of the major “rules” of the site, but it gets rather monotonous typing Rob Van Dam over and over again and I guess I was looking for a little variety. I promise that from now on, I will only use nicknames when I have malicious intent. With that out of the way

As I said last week, C.M. Punk is one of those guys that is bound to elicit a reaction from the fans and is certainly someone that people feel very passionate about. There’s another guy out there that people feel pretty passionate about and he’s the focus of today’s column. This is a man that has been the most universally beloved wrestler to internet fans for the past decade and a man that we have been forced to watch get denigrated time and time again, and now it appears that his fate might be going from bad to worse.

For your consideration Chris Benoit should not be moved to RAW.

Monday Night RAW is the flagship program of the WWE. It is unquestionably the A show and more often than not, shifting a superstar from Smackdown to RAW generally means big things in his future. In this instance though, it’s hard to see the upside.

Since Monday Night RAW is the main stage, logic would dictate that Smackdown is the B show and ECW is just outside the 9th circle of hell. Life on the B show isn’t all that bad for most of the roster; there isn’t major jockeying for position, most of the roster seems to enjoy ample screen time and the show generally has longer matches. Monday Night RAW is a monument to the days of crash television, where matches are 3 minutes long and the storyline always comes first. On Smackdown, more often than not, they advertise a main event and in a stunning revelation deliver a lengthy main event. In between the opening promo and the final bout, there are usually decent matches featuring Kendrick and London or Chavo Guerrero, with storyline taking a backseat to in-ring action. Unlike RAW, Smackdown doesn’t feel like it’s whirring by in a perpetual motion machine (can’t pass up a Simpsons quote: “In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!”) and it makes for a nice change of pace. Plus, there’s the added benefit that Michael P.S. Hayes is holding the book and he genuinely seems interested in giving fans entertaining old-school shows.

The best part about Smackdown is that the main event scene is relatively wide open. Whether we like it or not, the Undertaker is the top guy on Smackdown. Thankfully, he isn’t an “every week guy”, but rather a special attraction. The Undertaker is unquestionably the locker-room leader and arguably the single biggest merchandise draw on Smackdown. That’s all well and good, but at the end of the day the Undertaker for the past year has been nothing more than a glorified guest-star. Yes, for the past few months his on-camera time has been increased dramatically, but that’s necessary to build for this Sunday’s Wrestlemania. When the WWE hits the dead months of summer (no pun intended), Undertaker sightings are bound to be less and less, and no one has earned the right to take this time off more than he has.

Batista was the top draw on Smackdown. Unfortunately, a disappointing feud with JBL and an untimely injury cost Dave his top spot last year, and since his return he hasn’t been able to recapture his connection with the fans. Sure, he has the title and sure, he still gets a nice pop when he comes to the ring, but it’s nothing compared to the reaction he was getting when he was chasing Triple H a few years back. Win or lose this Sunday, Batista will still be a main eventer on Smackdown.

Friday Night Smackdown has suffered more hits to its roster then would seem fathomable, yet somehow it still manages to crank out compelling television. Smackdown in the past year alone lost Kurt Angle, JBL, Rey Mysterio and Batista (not to mention Mark “Enough Already” Henry), and yet there is no shortage of guys willing to take the ball and run with it. King Booker, Finlay and Mr. Kennedy have been more than willing to step up and make the most of the chances that they’ve been given and each man has been able to slide into the main event when needed.

Chris Benoit is a versatile wrestler. Now, I’m not talking about Chris Benoit the in-ring technician, because few in the sport can parallel his accomplishments in the ring. What I mean is that Chris Benoit can fit any need on any roster. Right now he’s holding the U.S. Title, and despite it being about as prestigious as an arena football trophy, that belt still maintains a shred of credibility simply because of who is holding it. He was able to make Gregory Helms look like a credible threat, and this Sunday he’s probably going to make MVP look like a legitimate contender at Wrestlemania. Chris Benoit can easily play that Finlay role, molding young superstars until they look like they deserve to be in the ring with a superstar like Benoit.

Chris Benoit could easily step up to the main event of Smackdown tomorrow and it would feel like a natural progression. Benoit is a former world champion and one of the most respected men in the business, and since Smackdown’s upper card is always one step away from disaster, it makes sense to keep him as an ace up their sleeve. For the sake of argument, assume that the Undertaker wins the title at Wrestlemania. This seems like a logical place for Batista to turn heel since I doubt the WWE wants the inevitable rematch to be face/face. Knocking Batista out as the number 2 face on Smackdown leaves a huge hole, and unless they pull the trigger early on the Kennedy turn, that leaves very few people to fill the gap. Who’s going to be the number 2 face? Matt Hardy?

Eight days ago, WWE fans saw what will be Chris Benoit’s future should they move him to RAW. Tap, tap, tap. To John Cena. In the middle of the ring. To the STFU. Clean.

If the WWE is serious about moving Benoit to RAW, then one has to question the logic of brining him in a week early to job. Before you say it, I know why they did what they did. John Cena needs to look strong before Wrestlemania. WWE needs to establish the fact that Shawn Michaels needs to be afraid of what Cena can do. Fans need to believe that the STFU is a credible move. Triple H tapped out to the same move last year. I get it. However, Chris Benoit is not the most over guy with casual fans in the first place. After all, give Vince 30 seconds and he’ll rattle off every flaw that Benoit has. He’s short, he can’t talk, he’s got no charisma and he doesn’t have “the look”. Vince gave Benoit his shot at Wrestlemania 20, and after an itchy trigger finger led to the belt winding up on Orton, the WWE conveniently forgot that Chris was ever a main eventer and let him settle back into his role as U.S./IC Champion.

Right now, RAW has an established main event with very territorial guys on top. No one is going to take WWE Champion John Cena’s spot as the top face. No one’s going to take Shawn and Hunter’s place as the top guys without the belts. Edge and Orton are the go-to heels and Umaga is the resident monster. The rest of the RAW roster is a muddled mix of almost-top guys like Carlito and Jeff Hardy or tag teams like Cryme Tyme and Haas & Benjamin. Chris Benoit is more likely than not going to get mixed up in this murky middle ground. He’ll feud with the IC champ. He’ll get squashed by Umaga and Khali. Who knows, maybe once every few months they’ll throw him into a tag match with Cena? In short, he isn’t going to add anything to the RAW roster because they would never let him be more than what he already is, a middle of the card guy. As long as the guys at the top are the guys at the top, there’s no room for Benoit to “break through”. At Chris’s age, there’s little motivation for the WWE to elevate him back up to the main event level on their flagship show. Benoit will settle into a nice role as the guy that’ll wind up being used to get Carlito over after Carlito’s done with Flair, or worse they’ll use him to get Johnny Nitro over.

On Smackdown, Benoit is always one step away from main eventing the next PPV. It isn’t unfathomable for No Mercy or the Great American Bash to feature Undertaker v. Benoit for the title or Benoit v. Batista. On the other side of the coin, after Cena made him his bitch on RAW, do you honestly think that Vince sees dollar signs in a John Cena v. Chris Benoit match live on Pay-Per-View?

When Benoit is moved to RAW, he’ll be just another superstar. And maybe he’s content with being a midcard guy. Maybe he wants to spend the rest of his career elevating young talent. Then again, he’s doing that now on Smackdown, and at least on Friday nights there’s less of a chance of him tapping out to a weak-assed finishing move. Please, let Chris Benoit keep his dignity, because we don’t want to suffer through Benoit v. Chris Masters. Ever.

This has been for your consideration.

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